"Old St. Mary’s is truly unique and one of a kind." - Fr. Jon-Paul Bevak (Photos courtesy of Fr. Jon-Paul)
CINCINNATI - The Tri-State is rich in the number and variety of houses of worship. In our weekly feature, WCPO shines the spotlight on where we pray.
For some Catholics, there's nothing quite like a Latin mass. Or maybe you like your sermons in German? Either way, Old St. Mary's is an answer to your prayers. And they do English, too.
The church was established in 1841, and the architectural style is eclectic. Not only that, the altar conceals the remains of an early female Roman martyr from the first century discovered in the Roman catacombs.
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"Celebrating both its heritage and traditions, we offer mass in three languages, while at the same time offering a place of quiet prayer amidst a busy world. With a special focus on sacred music, centuries of tradition come alive each week at the church. Old St. Mary’s is truly unique and one of a kind." - Fr. Jon-Paul Bevak
Old St. Mary’s was established in 1841 for the spiritual care of German immigrants in Over-the-Rhine. It is the oldest standing church building in Cincinnati.
The architectural style is eclectic. For example, the engaged pilasters and classical entablature are in the Greek Revival style. The round windows of the facade add a touch of the Baroque, while the frames of the window and the quatrefoil openings in the tower show signs of the 19th Century's growing interest in the Romanesque and Gothic styles.
Underneath the altar are the remains of an early female Roman martyr from the first century discovered in the Roman catacombs and brought to Cincinnati by Father Clemens Hammer, first pastor of St. Mary's, in 1844. The bones of this saint can be seen through a small glass window in the center of the high altar.
St. Mary's has the oldest clock tower (1843) in Cincinnati, and one of the oldest in the United States. The bell in the clock tower originally was cast by Levi Coffin, an American Quaker nicknamed "President of the Underground Railroad" in Cincinnati for helping more than 3,000 slaves obtain their freedom.
After the bell was installed, it served many years as the fire alarm for the northeastern section of the city.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Father Carl Pippenbreier (pastor at the time) wanted to make the parish international. He added German, French, Spanish and Hungarian services to the Latin and English masses.
The church is on the National Register of Historic Places. Tours are available.
More about Old St. Mary's
Old St. Mary's is a local parish committed to tradition and culture. It is one of the few parishes in the country to offer a weekly Latin Mass (services designed both before and after the Second Vatican Council) and is the only Catholic Church in the country to offer a weekly German mass. People attend from all over the Greater Cincinnati area.
It is staffed by a newly forming religious congregation called the Congregation of the Oratory, founded by St. Philip Neri.
To help serve the broader community, Old St. Mary’s operates one of the area's busiest Pregnancy Centers, whose mission is to help pregnant mothers with basics needed to help care for their child or children.
Old St. Mary’s 9:15 Sunday Latin mass features Gregorian chant and Renaissance music provided by choir members from the University of Cincinnati’s College Conservatory of Music.
Special projects and events in the near future include the completion of its organ restoration project in April after raising nearly $350,000. In 2016-2017 the church will be celebrating its 175th anniversary.
Contact Old St. Mary's Church
(Photos courtesy of Father Jon-Paul Bevak)